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Violet Crown project hits road block with Austin Environmental Commission

Austin Watershed Protection recommends denial for the request for over 16,000 feet of wastewater lines and water lines.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: KVUE confirmed on Feb. 22, after this article's publishing, that the developer has withdrawn its water service extension requests and will be pursuing a different route.

On Wednesday, the City of Austin Environmental Commission heard from people for and against the Violet Crown project. But, by a unanimous vote, the commission voted against a request from project developers for water and wastewater service extensions.

The entertainment and residential project includes a 20,000-seat amphitheater, two luxury apartment towers, a distillery and tasting room, a Top Golf-style driving range and a parking garage – all on 71 acres on State Highway 71 near Southwest Parkway.

"It's surrounded by conservation land," said Austin Watershed Protection Deputy Environmental Officer Liz Johnston. 

Environmentalists have been pushing back on the massive plan for a couple reasons – it's on a nature preserve and near creeks. 

The developer, International Development Management (IDM), requested to add 16,000 feet of wastewater lines and water lines. 

"That's a lot of infrastructure to serve one development," said Johnston. 

Johnston said those lines would cross Barton Creek and close to Williamson Creek, causing concern for potential wastewater pollution. 

"It's regrettable, but infrastructure does fail frequently," said Johnston. "It may not be tomorrow, but 20 years down the road, the line could break 20 years from now. We still want people to be swimming in Barton Springs, right?"

So Austin's Watershed Protection won't recommend approving the extension. It said the impacts from the proposed water and wastewater line would require significant infrastructure improvements in an environmentally sensitive area where the City of Austin is actively working to protect water quality and endangered species protection. 

The president of IDM, Craig Bryan, said the developer addressed all environmental concerns, including bird safety and noise.

"We have hired the best civil engineers that we can, have third-party engineers to review our plans to ensure no wastewater is lost into the creek," said Bryan.

The Austin Wastewater Commission also has to give its recommendation before the city council makes a final decision. Bryan hopes the City will partner with the developer. 

"It provides jobs and provides an endowment that will touch the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people – way more so than just the idea of, 'Oh, we're going to listen to some live music.' It's actually a genuine community impact project," said Bryan. 

Bryan said the company has backup plans in place if Austin City Council doesn't approve the wastewater line and water line. 

IDM plans to break ground before 2022 is over. 

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